How much pain is enough?
Have you ever asked yourself, “How much pain is enough?”
I know what it’s like to be in pain. It’s not fun. It’s not good. And no one would wish it on anyone else ever. Whether back pain, neck pain, a headache, or a stubbed toe, having pain is not on anyone’s list of “happy”.
But I’m not unique. Most people have experienced some level of pain and understand how not fun it is. Or, they certainly know of someone who has been in pain or is now and pain and can see or practically feel what that’s like. Pain is an inevitable human experience in one way or another.
For these reasons, I understand why people ask me one of the most popular questions with their back pain, neck pain, headache or other health problem: “How bad is it?”
Sometimes the question is more involved. “How does this compare to other people you’ve seen?” Or the popular numerical option of “On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you say this is doc?”
These questions are nearly impossible to answer in a meaningful way. However, there is meaning to the question indeed. And it is certainly most valuable for someone in pain to put in perspective the pain that they’re in.
“How much pain is enough?” Well, the better question may be, “How bad do you want the pain to be before you decide it’s enough?”
As a practicing chiropractor in Toronto who has been asked these questions for over 20 years, I no longer answer the question. Rather, I share that pain is binary. A fancy way of saying that it’s either there or it’s not. If it’s there, it’s bad enough.
Once the pain is there, it’s time to evaluate what the pain means. “Where is the pain coming from, why is it happening, how is it impacting the body, and when is it time to intervene?” … are valuable thoughts.
While we can tolerate pain and even mask it or hide it, we may not want to tolerate the changes in our body that are signalling the pain. While pain is valuable as an alert, it’s not always valuable as to the nature of the problem. In fact, pain is usually the last thing to show up and the first thing to go away with a health problem, leaving the cause or source to remain and continue to be a problem whether we feel it or not.
So, ask yourself “How much pain is enough?” Then create a strategy for accepting no level of pain to be unaddressed. This will support feeling good for longer and having better health for the future.